Monday, December 20, 2010

27 lessons from 27 years, Part I (27-22)

I'll be turning 27 on Saturday. In recognition of that, I'll post up 27 random lessons I learned in my perfect cube years of life.

#27 - Benchmarks.
         Birthdays don't mean much to me. An odd thing to say since I'm writing a week of blog posts in honor of 27 but quite honestly, I don't really like people making a huge fuss over me. Also odd to say since I love the spotlight but the idea of an entire event devoted to me boggles my mind. Why would someone do that? Really, I celebrate life every single day I have it. I'm alive in a world full of opportunity. That's more than enough reason to celebrate.
         Instead of birthdays, I like benchmarks. Benchmarks are awesome. They offer you a way to measure your progress towards your goals. Years go by, the calendar pages roll on and on, but am I any closer to the death I want to die? Have I lived the way I want to live? I love numbers and time because it slaps me back into reality. I look at so many of the people around me. I'm going to be 27 years old and the most beautiful thought in my mind is my own death. If I can have it, I can't wait to be surrounded by fat, crying grandkids whom I love so much, who I'm going to miss lifting in the air, teaching them how to throw a punch, how to take a punch, talk to adults without looking away, ride a bike without being afraid to fall, swim deep waters, climb tall trees, kiss all the pretty girls and throw baseballs through brick walls. My children, biological or otherwise, soberly reflecting on the spiritual inheritance I'll be leaving them. Friends, whom I've known for a good long time, laughing at me because I always said I'd be the last to go, punks all of them. I want more than anything else to die smiling knowing I left nothing behind. I fought the good fight. I ran the race. And I made Death work his damn ass off to catch me.
         Or who knows?  Maybe my reckless driving will get to me and I'll zig when I should have zagged and end up burning to death, shards of glass, beams of steel piercing my vital organs. Who really knows? If I don't get the death I'm asking for, so be it. I don't control that so why worry about that? Death will come when it does. In order to die that death, I'll have to live my life. Live. Life.

#26 - Time is never objective.
         Quantum physics should have taught us this much already. Some of the more scientifically inclined amongst us knows what happens to rays of light as they stray too near the event horizon of a black hole. But what happens when black holes start emerging in our spirits, in our schedules? The prospect, the spectre of the real world haunted me back in college. Why? The people representing the "real world" to me looked so dead and lifeless, fish on a bed of ice at the market, eyes red, glazed over. 5 days a week of doing just enough to get by, going home to watch shows that numb your pain, drinking on the weekends to forget you're alive. 80 years of life? Too long by far. Years become crawling, creeping vermin, each annum indistinguishable from the next.
        But life moves quickly, too quickly for those who love life. Einstein said that placing your hand on a hot stovetop for a moment may seem like an eternity but a night spent with a beautiful woman passes like a phantom. As someone who has met his share of stovetops and beautiful women, this is true. As someone who loves his life, this is true. I'm going to die one day so I have to start saving up now for a big coffin. I have a lot of joy to bring with me. Ain't gonna have much room for any possessions in that box.

#25 - Your life won't wait for you.
         As much as time isn't objective, it will still move no matter what you do. So get your ass in gear! Your future you isn't any more likely to stop procrastinating than your current you. Your future you won't be any better than your current you unless the current you does something. Like every battle that has ever been waged, the key to victory lays in taking the initiative. If you wait for the enemy to dictate the terms of engagement, you lose.
         Life is hard. Life demands that you fight for your joy, that you get up off the couch, off the floor where you've been crying, off the bottom of the well where you've been thrown and fight. Tooth and nail, grit and guts, you must fight. It'll hurt. It'll hurt even more than it's hurting right now. But your other option is a life of slow suffocation as the coils of time tighten around you. Live or have your life taken from you. Choose or have choices made for you.

#24 - Stop fighting the water.
         My swimming took a massive step forward this year. Suddenly, I was slip-streaming through the water where before I felt like I had to plow through with brute force. If you looked at my workout schedule and saw swimming twice a day, five days a week, you might think that I improved because I developed more swimming muscles. Not really. I improved because I finally opened up to the water and surrendered.
         Life requires that you fight. Not everything in life is a fight. Looking forward, I think a great deal of my maturation will come from trying to hold each of these truths in their proper tension. Swimming teaches me to surrender, to stop fighting, to let go and let things be. It would be one thing if the water was merely stronger than you, but not only is the water mightier than you, the more power you bring to bear, the faster you go, the more resistance you'll meet. And this resistance scales geometrically.
         But the water doesn't want you to fight. If you're stuck in an unwinnable fight, you should probably consider whether fighting is what you're supposed to do.

#23 - Trust the water.
          I stopped fighting the water when I began to trust the water. I'm 222 lbs. Densely muscled. Fairly long legs. Poor swimmer design. All the more reason to trust the water. I'm not going to drown. I can lean on the water. The water will support me. The water is here to help me. Believing these atomic facts, truly believing in a way that those who define belief as 'mental assent' will never understand, is the difference between swimming 1.2 miles and clinging onto a kayak and giving up with 90% of the race in front of you, eyes full of tears.
          Consider the wealth within this metaphor. Where are you fighting unnecessarily in your life? What succor and aid are you pushing away, refusing to see? Where can you soften? What can you relax and still maintain this posture? What are you holding on to that you can, you should, you know you should let go of? Let it go. Trust.

#22 - Fun is a sign of trust.
         I have lots of fun goofing off in the pool ever since I began trusting the water. Swimming upside down, backwards, making up ridiculous new strokes, just generally acting like a kid again has been a great joy for me. I went to swim at the pool right when it opened up this morning when suddenly the realization dawned upon me: I didn't come to get a workout in this morning. I came to have fun. Swimming fast and smooth is fun. Swimming for time is fun. Swimming in zig-zags like I was doing an aquatic cone drill is fun. Empty pool all to myself, about the only thing I was missing was wacky Hawaiian shorts and a crackling barbeque on the side.
         For the longest time, the only thing I thought about 10 to 12 times a week was how I could improve my swim time. I ground out every work out trying to fix my form. After the truth of water shone upon me, I felt liberated. The scales from my eyes, the weight from my shoulders, the seconds off the clocks, all these burdens fell and I could be a little kid again.
        I'm a little country boy at heart. Yeah, I read such and such and like this and that, but what really makes me ridiculously happy is summer sunshine, running and chasing things to my content, jumping, swimming, climbing, building, catching, wrestling. Fields of tall grass, forests of high trees, babbling brooks, running rivers, I've never outgrown this part of life and may the very flesh rot off my bones before I ever stop having fun. If something I'm doing is not something I can have fun doing, I'm doing the wrong thing.


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